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Leafs deal Potvin to Isles for Berard

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Posted: Saturday January 09, 1999 10:11 PM

  Potvin posted a 3-2 record with a 3.81 goals-against average for Toronto Steve Babineau/Allsport

TORONTO (AP) -- Goaltender Felix Potvin, who had left the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 2 awaiting a trade, finally got his wish Saturday when he was dealt to the New York Islanders for defenseman Bryan Berard.

The teams also swapped sixth-round picks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.

Potvin, who had been at home in Montreal waiting for a deal, immediately joined the Islanders and backed up Tommy Salo in Montreal on Saturday.

"I'm real happy, it's a relief to finally be able to wear another uniform and I'm really looking forward to playing," Potvin said. "I'm certainly real happy to go there. It's been very hard for six months but you know, today is like a second start to my career."

Potvin was Toronto's No. 1 goalie for five seasons, twice helping the Maple Leafs to the Western Conference finals, but was bumped to a backup role when Curtis Joseph signed a four-year, $24-million contract in July.

Potvin started only five of the Maple Leafs' first 25 games this season, posting a 3-2 record with a goals-against average of 3.81.

Our take on the trade

For those wondering what the heck Mike Milbury is thinking, the answer is current Islanders goalie Tommy Salo.

Milbury and Salo have never jived, a conflict that dates back to Milbury's first coaching stint from July 5, 1995 to Jan. 23, 1997. Milbury didn't exhibit much patience with a young goalie, and Salo spent most of the 1994-95, and '95-96 seasons starring in the IHL. He emerged as the Islanders' starter halfway through the '96-97 season, but the team struggled in front of him, and fellow goalie Eric Fichaud, now with Nashville, a trend that continued last season.

Salo expressed public reservations when Milbury fired Rick Bowness and returned to the bench last year, and the Swedish goalie hasn't distinguished himself since. Entering Saturday's game against Montreal, he didn't rank among the league's top 20 goalies in goals-against average -- his was 2.53, with a 12-17-2 record through 31 games -- and although his save percentage, .902, ranked seventh, Milbury hasn't shyed from a quick hook.

Acquiring Potvin and signing top 1997 draft pick Roberto Luongo on Saturday gave Milbury the comfort zone that he required to unload Salo. As for sacrificing the 21-year-old Berard, a former Calder Trophy winner, Milbury acknowledged throwing dice, but evidently preferred to extract a larger thorn.


"Toronto is a great city and I enjoyed six years of my career and I have great memories," Potvin said. "It's too bad that this year gave me a sour taste in my mouth but I'd rather remember the first six years and all the fun I had there and all the great teammates I had."

Berard, who won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 1996-97, has four goals and 11 assists in 31 games this season. His skill on the blue line should help Toronto's power play.

"I'm excited to go to a team like Toronto with a great tradition and they are playing great," Berard said in Montreal. "I'm really looking forward to it."

The offensively gifted defenseman's style of play didn't mix well with defense-oriented Islanders.

"This is a good young player and there were certain things that we saw and certain flaws that we tried to address and correct," Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said. "Some we had success with and others we didn't. Perhaps Toronto will have more success with Bryan.

"He did come a long way defensively maybe at the expense of his offense. Maybe they'll find the right blend in Toronto."

Berard was taken first overall in the 1995 draft by Ottawa but never signed with the Senators. In January 1996, the Islanders acquired him in a three-team deal involving Ottawa and Toronto.

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Berard, who has been sidelined recently with a groin injury, was to fly into Toronto on Saturday night.

"I'm hoping it's only four or five more days," Berard said. "I'm scheduled to play Wednesday."

In Potvin, the Islanders hope they have solved their goaltending woes. Salo has been inconsistent and the Islanders will look for Potvin to provide stability.

"We're looking forward to have Felix jump-start our team to a winning record like we had in the beginning of the season," Islanders assistant coach Wayne Fleming said.

Related information
Inside the NHL with Michael Farber: Another milestone for innovative Barrasso
Kostya Kennedy's NHL Mailbag: All-Star quibbles wanted
CNN/SI's Player Page: Felix Potvin
NHL Goaltending Statistics
Maple Leafs-Islanders Trade Stats
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